After facing the challenge of recovering from the covid-19 infection, the most common problem faced is Post Covid Lung Damage, also known as Lung Fibrosis.
How does it occur?
When the lungs get affected in covid-19, it presents as viral pneumonitis which is the inflammation phase. Eventually, if this progresses it can cause ARDS (Acute Respiratory Diseases Syndrome) and cause scarring of the lungs known as lung fibrosis. In ARDS, fluid builds up in the air sacs of the lungs and reduces oxygen transfer to the cells. Lungs usually have the potential to recover from the injury, requiring 6 to 12 weeks. But if ARDS sets in then the lung fibrosis can be irreversible or permanent leading to functional limitations. Common ARDS symptoms are cough, heavy breathing, low oxygen levels and increased heart rate.
INDICATORS OF ARDS
1] Hypoxia causing low oxygen levels
2] Chest X-ray showing opaque or white hazy lungs against a black background
These patients have lifelong lung damage even after recovery from the Coronavirus infection. People who were hospitalized in the critical care unit and were on invasive ventilators usually develop this lung damage. They might require home oxygen, home bipap (a small, easily operated machine that helps a person with ARDS to breathe) support and pulmonary rehabilitation.
The only treatment for lung fibrosis that is irreversible is lung transplantation. Lung fibrosis occurs as the body replaces inflamed tissue with scar tissue which makes the lungs stiff and deprived of adequate oxygen transfer making it difficult for patient to breathe.
Antifibrotic medications are being used but these do not stop lung fibrosis, just delay or slow down the rapid rate of fibrosis. Pirfenidone and nintedanib are used to delay lung function decline by 50% in IPF (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis) patients. Usual lung function of a normal person is more than 80%. Patients with progressive lung fibrosis have a poor prognosis.